“I said earlier that Pakistan was part of his faith, but that he himself was not a man of faith. His Islam, though it could inform his political ideas, now giving him a special feeling for the cause of the Palestinians and the Kashmiris, now a pride in the history of Muslims from Andalusia to Mughal India, was not total; it was not a complete vision of a society founded in faith.
He was a man in whom various and competing ideas of sanctity could function. His wish for his country was not that of the totality of Islam, but of a society built on the achievements of men, on science, on rationality, on modernity.”
These are words shared by Aatish Taseer, British-born writer-journalist, and the son of Indian journalist Tavleen Singh and Late Pakistani politician and businessman Salmaan Taseer at the assassination of his father. It is pertinent to draw relations between what just took place in Pakistan, an act of fanaticism and Aatish Taseer’s book ‘Stranger To History: A Son’s Journey To Islamic Lands’ published two years back. How a governor was assassinated by a so-called Muslim fanatic for voicing clemency for a woman on humanitarian terms and how thousands of people supported this fanatic considering his deed as that approved by God.
Aatish wrote a book called ‘Stranger To History: A Son’s Journey To Islamic Lands’ on February 3, 2009. He was then interviewed by Richard Marcus the very year where they discussed his book and its controversial content in detail. In this interview with Richard Marcus, he talked about Islamic identity and the ailments of the Islamic world.
His journey to write his book ‘Stranger To History: A Son’s Journey To Islamic Lands’ was not only to determine the cause behind the distance between himself and his father but also to comprehend the deeper reasons beyond his personal context. Aatish felt that this silence between him and his father had more to do with Pakistan itself rather than personal conflicts. He found it strange that the country ‘Pakistan’ that caused this estrangement considered his father a disbeliever and yet a Muslim. It was the history of the two countries, Pakistan and India and their cultural differences that caused this gap to develop. This became his driving force behind writing a book on Islam. A book that focused on The Partition and what followed the partition in the entire Muslim world. How after the partition his parents’ relation became note-worthy, and how it caused an upheaval in the two nations. He used examples like Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran to bring light to the fact that how Islam faced trouble adapting to the modern political life concluding that Pakistan was the worst effected.
“Finally there was Pakistan, which, in my opinion, had paid the heaviest price for the faith. It had broken with itself and its history to form a nation on the thinnest of thin grounds. And the nation had been, from start to finish, a disaster. It had left millions of people sixty years later dispossessed and full of hateful lies.”
He believes that the bases behind the making of Pakistan, its idea of Religious purity is in itself a very weak bond to hold the nation together. He mentioned further how he felt that the religious leaders twisted facts and used them against the general people and made them feel that the Muslims were wronged. Alienating the ‘modern people’ entirely, causing an inevitable gap between themselves and the rest of the world so much so that eventually it became a lot more convenient for any fanatic to feed their minds with lies and assumptions. It just portrayed how Islam was practiced with ‘moderation’ and that too in the wrong areas to meet personal satisfaction and desires.
In his book he talks of Estrangements at several levels. Estrangement of Pakistan with its shared history with the sub-continent, rejection of the pre-Islamic India amongst the Muslims of the Sub-continent causing further alienation, estrangement that he shared with his father due to these very differences. He mentions how this book re-connects him to Pakistan which he feels is still bonded with the sub-continent through its culture, its prose, its nature of being. This he feels is the true essence of a nation and not religion and thus in this way he completely negates the ‘Two Nation Theory.’ Aatish Taseer’s book and its harsh exposure to Islam led to tremendous upheaval causing it to be thrashed by Muslim critics in several countries.
It is ironic how a son who talked about Islam and its ailments became a victim of the very same when his own father was assassinated for voicing similar ideologies two years later.